If you are an avid web surfer, chances are high that you must have come across the legendary folklore of a Pan American Plane, namely Flight 914, which took off in 1955 but landed after 37 years in 1992. Apparently, it took off from a New York City airport, was originally headed for Miami, Florida, but eventually landed in Caracas, Venezuela. This was one mystery that was talked about for years in succession and while some wondered whether this was a fact, others dismissed this as a fiction.
It is apparent that filmmaker Shailender Vyas has taken inspiration from these headlines and created JL50, which is the name of a flight that takes off from Kolkata, only to disappear and then re-emerge 35 years later in a remote West Bengal village. The trouble? It has now crashed with all the passengers on board and the only survivors are a co-pilot (Ritika Anand) and a mystery man (Piyush Mishra). CBI is entrusted to investigate a two member team led by Abhay Deol (along with Rajesh Sharma) embark on the trails to get to the root of it all.
What truly works in favour of this nearly two hour affair (which has been broken into four episodes of close to 30 minutes each) is the realistic treatment that has been applied to the narrative. A subject like this would typically be showcased as an out and out glossy and stylish thriller with the usual Hollywood/Bollywood tropes. However, JL50 instead reminds one of the kind of cinema that Abhay Deol had done at the beginning of his career, a la Manorama – Six Feet Under, a noir thriller. There are quite a few conversations that ensue which make JL50 truly exciting and though a big hint is thrown right at the beginning, the big twist is revealed around the interval point that catches your attention. The pre-climax twist involving a couple of key characters is even better and brings on an emotional appeal too, which makes JL50 a largely satisfying ride.
That said, the first 20-25 minutes take a bit of a time to set the base. Yes, the characters are introduced and so are the situations. However they are a bit staggered. After the introduction of a professor (Pankaj Kapur), you expect the drama to elevate but then he disappears for a while. In fact there is a very important sequence where he travels from Kolkata to the site of crash and with the better choice of a thrilling background score, it could have enhanced the momentum. Instead, a folk inspired song plays which dips the excitement. Things do get far better though when his character comes in true form during the second half.
As for Abhay Deol, he yet again shows that as an actor with a natural style of acting, he has only become better with time (no pun intended). He doesn’t mind exposing the vulnerabilities of his characters and his breakdown in a key scene during the latter half of the film is wonderfully captured. The camera holds on to his own expressions for a wee bit extra and that makes all the difference.
One does wonder though why Rajesh Sharma was not used to the fullest. Yes, he is there from start till the finish but then he deserved at least a couple of truly meaty scenes that were really his own. As for Ritika, she has a face that does catch your attention and it is interesting to see how she manoeuvres the narrative later in the day. Piyush Mishra is as usual and though he had restricted his trademark mannerisms in recently released Illegal (with Neha Sharma), he is back to what he does in most outings with JL50.
All in all, JL50 is a thriller that captures your attention right from start till the end. Yes, it takes a bit of a time to take off but once mid-aur, you would like to enjoy the ride, go through some turbulence (read: twists & turns), before making for a smooth, albeit unexpected landing.